The view from an overlook in the Ko’olau Mountains of O’ahu, Hawai’i, reveals lush rain forests covering every inch of the vast mountain terrain. But despite the heavy mist hanging over the mountains and abundant rainfall, this remote watershed is at actually at risk. The Waiawa watershed is critical resource for the people of O’ahu. It's the principle recharge area for the Pearl Harbor Aquifer, which supplies the majority of the drinking water for communities across the island -- more than 364 million gallons each day.

Invasive plants and wildlife caused vast degradation to the terrain, limiting the ability of the Waiawa watershed to recharge and replenish. To help protect this critical watershed, Coca-Cola this week joined the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the Ko’olau Mountains Watershed to announce a new replenishment project.

Coca-Cola is contributing a $200,000 grant to the project to support the construction of a 6.6 mile-long protective fence in the Waiawa rain forest. The fence will help protect the watershed and preserve the native flora and fauna.

This project, the first-ever public-private partnership with the DLNR, will serve as a model to inspire other organizations to consider funding public conservation projects. It also supports Governor David Ige’s Sustainable Hawai’i Initiative and his commitment to protect 30 percent of Hawai’i’s priority watersheds by 2030.

“This funding from The Coca-Cola Company brings us that much closer to achieving the Sustainable Hawai’i Initiative, which includes our commitment to protect 30 percent of Hawaiʻi’s priority watersheds by 2030,” explained Governor David Ige. “We’ve always said this goal will take a broad and engaged cross-section of people and partnerships. We value and appreciate The Coca-Cola Company’s contribution to this crucial effort toward helping protect water as the lifeblood of these islands.”

Hawaii Department of Land and Nature Resources

Under the Sustainable Hawai‘i Initiative, the state hopes to protect 253,000 acres of critical watershed like the Waiawa. Working together to manage Hawai’i’s forested watersheds involves multiple partners. Community water stewards all play a role through funding, volunteering, and planning. The partners shared their thoughts during the ceremony.

"The DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) has assigned its highest conservation value to the Waiawa forest, which gives it the greatest level of protection and management, with fencing as a high priority," said Suzanne Case, Governor Ige’s appointee and Cchair of DLNR Suzanne Case. "This project will be a big step forward toward achieving Governor Ige’s 30X30 watershed protection goals.”

Bruce Karas, vice president of Environment and Sustainability, Coca-Cola North America, added, “This watershed belongs to the local community and as community members we want to help ensure this precious resource is sustainable for future generations. The Ko’olau Mountains Watershed is among more than 100 community watershed projects that Coca-Cola supports throughout the country to help us continue to replenish 100 percent of the water that we use in our beverages and return it to communities and nature.”

Hawaii Department of Land and Nature Resources

Hawai’i's unique ecosystems provide biodiversity protection and aesthetic value to terrestrial and reef areas as the basis for the state’s attractiveness to millions of visitors. Other crucial functions include soil protection for sustained agricultural productivity and carbon storage for climate change mitigation.

"Water is the most precious resource on the planet," said Katie Ersbak, DOFAW watershed planner. "Thanks to the support of public and private partners like Coca-Cola and groups like the statewide Watershed Partnerships, we can maintain healthy forests that are critical to Hawaii’s supply of fresh, clean water."